The smartphone market has had over a decade of evolution that has led to plenty of power now being available at an affordable price. So we've rounded up the best budget phones you can find today.
If budget is no factor, you can read our overall best phones list to find out which top-of-the-line models are worth your hard-earned money.
Among our picks for best budget phones are plenty of heavy hitters in the mobile tech space, including Samsung, Apple, and even an entry from the nostalgia-inducing brand Nokia.
Byteside's best budget phone recommendations come from years of covering the tech industry, combined with reviews from the biggest and best global publications, so you can feel comfortable you're getting good advice.
The best budget phones
The best budget phone (Android): Samsung Galaxy A52
Samsung's affordable Galaxy A52 handset made our overall best phones list in the budget Android category, which makes it an automatic entry here among the best budget phones.
For less than $550 across Australian retailers, the Samsung Galaxy A52 offers a terrific Android experience at a reasonable price. It features a strong build quality, good photography options, and a nice processor for the price. Its display is also widely considered a strong point. Samsung recently announced the latest high-end Galaxy S22 phones, but the A52 remains the company's best budget phone for now.
The best budget phone (iPhone): Apple iPhone SE 3rd Generation
As we mentioned in our original best phones list, the iPhone SE is an excellent budget phone. Now into its third iteration, the third generation iPhone SE has the same A15 Bionic chip as Apple's flagship iPhone 13 range, packing speed and power into a classic chassis for those who prefer a touch ID home button.
If it weren't for the recent announcement, we would've happily recommended the now-previous gen SE as the best budget phone for iPhone lovers, but going with the newer model is a no-brainer. With upgraded internals and an improved camera over the 2020 model, the third-gen iPhone SE is an easy recommendation for budget-conscious buyers wanting the famous Apple experience.
Reviewers from The Verge, CNET, and Tom's Guide praised the latest iPhone SE for its strong performance-to-price ratio, compact form factor, and overall build quality. As the most affordable iPhone, the SE is an easy way to join the Apple family and comes highly recommended.
The best budget phone (Android) runner-up: Google Pixel 5a
Google's Pixel series of phones has impressed tech enthusiasts since coming on the scene to compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung. Not only are the more expensive phones seriously powerful, but the lowercase-'a' budget models also compete strongly with the competition.
Various sites like Tom's Guide, Digital Trends, and CNET have all praised the Google Pixel 5a as being one of the best budget phones for Android users. The handset features an impressive OLED display, but its camera performance is what really sets the Pixel 5a apart from other budget-level phones.
So, if you want a reasonably powerful budget phone that takes photographs well above its paygrade, go for the Google Pixel 5a.
The best budget phone with 5G: OnePlus Nord N200 5G
The OnePlus Nord N200 is one of the cheapest 5G-compatible phones available in the US, and it offers a combination of decent screen quality and long battery life to boot.
While aspects including its camera aren't necessarily worth writing home about, the main reason to consider the OnePlus Nord N200 5G is right in its name – the 5G connectivity. Most 5G compatible phones have a far steeper asking price, so if having access to the fastest available network for the lowest possible price is important, the Nord has what you want.
This sentiment is reflected in reviews, too, where The Verge, Tom's Guide, and Wirecutter observed plenty to like about the OnePlus Nord N200 5G considering its low-budget status, while conceding it has a few rough edges. Which, to be fair, is expected in the less expensive category. Still, it's a pretty impressive and cost-effective package.
The best budget phone under $200: Nokia G10
When you start diving among the cheapest budget phones, the quality can differ drastically. Pleasingly, the Nokia G10 does a lot of good things for an absolute bargain price.
For less than $200, you get a three-year warranty in addition to two years of guaranteed OS updates, which is mighty impressive at that price point. Finder rates the Nokia G10, and we think you will too, as long as you adjust your expectations to the price tag.
Don't expect miracles with the Nokia G10's camera and you'll encounter a decent smartphone experience with fast USB-C charging without needing to take out a second mortgage.